Elections 2015: A user’s guide

Simple instructions for the first-time voter, and a refresher for the rest of us

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Illustrative: A tray of Israeli election ballots for March 17, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)
Illustrative: A tray of Israeli election ballots for March 17, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/TOI)

Election Day can be confusing, especially if you haven’t voted in an Israeli election in the past.

The logistics of an Israeli election are different from those of Anglophone countries, from which a large number of our readers hail. If you are one of Israel’s 5,881,696 eligible voters (all eligible voters are automatically registered, so well done for registering!), here are some tips to make sure your vote is properly cast — and properly counted.

There are 10,372 polling stations scattered throughout the country. You can only vote at the station to which you are assigned. This is a measure targeting voting fraud, and it is strictly enforced. You should have received a little note by mail from the Central Elections Committee notifying you which booth is yours, and where it is located. (Note: There are multiple polling station in many location; make sure to go to the booth labeled with the number you received, or they won’t have you listed as an eligible voter.)

If you failed to receive your note, or have lost it, fear not. You don’t need the note to vote, and you can find the number and location of your assigned booth here. Just type in your ID (te’udat zehut) number, copy the string of letters to prove you are human, and the site will give you your polling booth’s number and address.

A stack of Israeli identification cards, January 22, 2008. (photo credit: Anna Kaplan/ Flash90)
A stack of Israeli identification cards, January 22, 2008. (photo credit: Anna Kaplan/Flash90)

When you go to vote, you must bring with you one of the following three forms of state identification, and only these three. Other identification documents, no matter how official their source, will not be accepted:

1. An Israeli driver’s license with a photo.

2. An Israeli ID card (te’udat zehut).

3. An Israeli passport with a photo.

Do not bring weapons, handbags or packages to the polling station. You may have to leave them outside to vote.

Now that you’re in, the method for voting is simple. The staff at the polling station will hand you an empty envelope. Inside the booth, you’ll find stacks of slips with each party’s letter-based symbol and name in Hebrew. If Hebrew is not your strong suit, familiarize yourself with your party’s symbol beforehand, or write it down and bring the note with you into the booth.

Take the ticket of your preferred party, place it in the envelope, making sure there is only one slip in the envelope. Multiple slips, even from the same party, will disqualify your vote.

This last instruction may sound obvious, but there are currently fake campaign posters being spread on Israeli social media sites urging voters from certain political camps to prefer “unity” over “division” by placing two parties from that side of the aisle into their envelopes. Whether the posters are intended as a joke or whether they’re a dishonest effort to lead voters from that camp to unknowingly disqualify their votes is beside the point. Just make sure you don’t make that mistake.

Illustration of an Israeli passport (photo credit: Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Israeli passport (photo credit: Flash90)

One last note: There are blank tickets among the stacks in the booth. These are not write-in ballots for parties or candidates who are not otherwise registered to run. They are there only in the case that the slips for the party of your choice run out. If you don’t see any of your party’s slips left, write the symbol of your party in legible script on the blank ticket and place it in your envelope. Writing the name of your favorite Disney princess or South American anarchist may be fun, but alas, it won’t show up in any final tally.

Finally, make sure to tell everyone you know that you voted, and that they should too. Vote for the party you like or, if you like no one, vote for the one most diametrically opposed to the party you most dislike. Either way, vote.

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